Coke Zero 400 - Qualifying

Kevin Harvick to drive No. 4 Chevy at Stewart-Haas; Ryan Newman moving on

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As Stewart-Haas Racing prepares to welcome Kevin Harvick next season, Ryan Newman will be looking for a new ride.

Harvick and Budweiser, his primary sponsor at Richard Childress Racing, are both making the jump to SHR as the California native will drive the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet starting in 2014.

“I think for me, the Stewart-Haas piece was intriguing just for the fact that you have Tony [Stewart] as a teammate,” Harvick said about what made SHR a better option for him.

“…We have a friendship that goes beyond the race track and I think obviously, [SHR co-owner] Gene Haas makes it very intriguing with the guarantees that he made to make the deal happen to put the car on the race track. When you have a family and you start seeing those guarantees of sponsorship for the car, it makes you think about things.

“I think not only those two pieces, but the Hendrick [Motorsports] tie-in with the engines and the support – understanding that, I think the potential is really high with all those resources and relationships and things that go with it.”

But with Stewart also confirming that his team was not ready to expand to a fourth program, that means Newman – who has raced with SHR since its inception in 2009 – will officially be a free agent at season’s end.

“Unfortunately, this will be the last year that we have Ryan with us,” said Stewart. “That’s probably what has made this a bittersweet day. I’m bringing in another one of my friends to the organization, but also knowing that I’m losing a friend at the end of the year to the organization.

“The No. 1 thing when Ryan and I spoke is that our friendship will not change. This was a business decision that was [team co-owner] Gene’s [Haas] as well as mine, and it was a hard decision.”

Newman, who has won three times in his five-year run with SHR, said that he was notified by Stewart of the decision on Wednesday. Commenting on the subject, Newman also made sure to emphasize his friendship with the three-time Cup champion but admitted that he had no idea about what his future may hold.

“That is something that weighs on my shoulders,” he said. “I have a little homework to do. That is part of racing and part of the situation that I’m in. I can’t say that I’m happy with how everything unfolded. I know that there are business decisions and business decisions sometimes trump friendships.

“I don’t feel like that was the case, but in the end, I’m happy with the three wins that I’ve had so far with Stewart-Haas and the performance and the cars and everything else. There will be a change for me in 2014 and I don’t know what that change is.”

Newman has collected 16 victories in his 11-year Cup career. His most recent one came with SHR at Martinsville in April of 2012.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.